The Ultimate Guide to Belly Button Piercings

June 24, 2022
By: Catharine Malzahn | by L'Oréal
Close-up of belly piercing

There’s no doubt about it: the early 2000s are having a moment in pop culture. With the 2000s style comes the resurgence of fun beauty trends like icy eyeshadow looks, frosty lips and one of our favorites right now: belly piercings. While a new piercing can be a rush of excitement and adrenaline, the most important part may just be the aftercare of the belly area.

If you’re looking to change up your look (and your body!), a belly piercing is a relatively easy and inexpensive way to do it. Plus, if you decide you don’t love it, it’s easy enough to remove later on down the road. To learn more about everything belly piercing-related, we talked to Los Angeles-based celebrity tattoo artist and piercer Brian Keith Thompson. Ahead, he shares his expertise in all things belly piercings: what they are, how often you can change them, how to take care of them and what to do if they get infected or things aren’t looking quite right.

What is a Belly Button Piercing?

A belly button piercing is a piercing of your navel (it can also be referred to as a navel piercing). This piercing will likely be placed slightly above your belly button so the jewelry can complement the belly button (rather than the jewelry hanging below it).

Close up of belly piercing

Does a Belly Piercing Hurt?

“It’s really not that painful,” says Thompson. “Sometimes, if it’s pierced improperly, like it’s a little too deep and the jewelry is not long enough or not the right size, it can cause problems. Or if you’re sensitive to nickel and have the wrong type of jewelry… These are all things that can be fixed, though. So even if you’re having an adverse reaction, before it gets too out of control, go talk to your piercer.”

Piercings are never completely permanent: they can be removed and there’s almost always a way to fix it, Thompson shares. “The great thing about piercings is that you can take them out and start over again,” says Thompson. 

Types of Belly Piercings

There are different types of belly piercings out there. Depending on your style, you can choose one that speaks to you!

Curved Barbell Piercings

Curved barbell piercings are one of the most common styles. It’s a good starter piercing for anyone looking to decorate their body.

“If you’re getting pierced for the first time, I would really recommend going with a curved barbell,” says Thompson.

Hoop Piercings

Hoop piercings are another popular choice right now. They are dainty, cute and simple — and they match with almost anything.

“I’m really into the delicateness of a tiny little hoop,” says Thompson. “And with the hoop, you can put stuff on it, put something hanging from it if you want a little more pizzazz.”

However, they may not be the best option for someone getting pierced for the first time.

“Less movement is best,” says Thompson. “At first look, a hoop looks like it’s not gonna move that much, but it is. It’s gonna move side to side and up and down, and that can cause complications during healing. And a navel is a long heal.”

Belly Button Piercing Aftercare and Healing

The aftercare of your piercing is the key to long-lasting success and a good-looking navel. 

“You can’t forget when you get out of the shower [that you have a new piercing] and drag a towel down your chest and just run into it,” says Thompson. “You’ve got to be real careful with it for the first three months after.”

He also recommends to his clients to sit up straight with good posture in the first three months of the piercing, because if you’re sitting for prolonged periods of time like on a plane or car trip, you don’t want to put pressure and lean on one side. He notes that it can cause migration and it will make your navel piercing crooked.

Consider your activity level before a navel piercing as well, Thompson advises.

“It’s gonna take eight months to a year to heal,” says Thompson. “Not eight days. It’s eight months… You’ve got to look at your life and say, ‘Hey, do I have time to do this? Am I playing sports right now?’ If you’re surfing all summer you probably don’t want to get your navel pierced that summer.”

How to Clean Belly Piercings

Cleaning your belly piercing is your best bet against infection and irritation. Here’s the secret: be gentle. The first day, you aren’t going to do much with it — it’s best to leave it alone, Thompson advises. After that, aftercare and cleaning it will be the key to success.

As for cleaning the piercing, Thompson recommends applying a fragrance-free soap daily. 

“Gently massage the soap, and I can’t stress that enough: gently,” says Thompson. “You don’t need to aggressively get in there underneath it and really work the soap… All you’re doing is gently rubbing, gliding the lather around the entry and exit of the navel around the jewelry.”

He notes that rinsing is extra important to avoid skin drying out, but water temperature doesn’t matter. After, pat dry the area; don’t rub.

“Incorporate a saline solution, and NeilMed makes a great piercing aftercare solution,” says Thompson. “Saline is going to increase the pH balance of the wound, and it’s going to also help keep it clean in a very, very mild way.”

He recommends using the saline solution at least twice a day (but he notes you can’t do it too much) for six to eight months.

When Can You Change Your Belly Piercing?

When you first get a belly piercing, don’t expect to be able to change it right away — so try to keep that in mind when you’re picking the jewelry you want to use! It’s nearly semi-permanent in the beginning, so make sure you’re happy with your choice before continuing forward.

“Leave it in for six months without touching it,” says Thompson. “The longer the better.”

How to Address an Infected Belly Button Piercing

If you suspect you have an infected belly button due to a piercing, it’s best to contact a doctor for medical assistance. It’s important to know what to look for to avoid any serious harm — or undue stress in the event that the piercing isn’t actually infected.

“If you’re suffering from an actual, bonafide infection, it’s going to look very red,” says Thompson. “It’s going to be warm to the touch. You’re going to see brown or green pus oozing from the area.” If your wound looks like that, Thompson recommends seeing a doctor.

However, a little irritation doesn’t necessarily mean infection, Thompson warns.

“If it’s just a little irritated and red, a little bit swollen and puffy, and you’ve got a little yellowish white oozing from it, that’s not dangerous,” says Thompson. “You probably injured it… That’s the body trying to repair the damage that’s caused.”

Because a piercing is technically a wound, the body starts to heal from the outside, Thompson explains, which is why you may see some slight irritation. He notes that a belly piercing takes particularly long to heal because there’s not as much blood flow to the abdomen, and the body is essentially trying to repair the skin around the wound.

How Much Does a Belly Button Piercing Cost?

It’s important to find a piercer you feel comfortable using who has jewelry you really like. But price isn’t always the perfect indicator of quality either, Thompson notes.

“If you’re not spending on the cusp from $175 to $300 you probably should be looking at how much experience this piercer has, where the jewelry is made, what it’s made of,” says Thompson.

He also advises that customers shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions or look around. He only uses titanium, gold or platinum metals for his jewelry because they’re hypoallergenic, and he recommends customers ask their piercers about the metal in their jewelry and where it’s from; there’s nothing wrong with shopping around a little bit.



Photos Courtesy of: Shutterstock

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